Archive for July, 2011

One more cave job

By Steve Klinger

The Democrats, search in a baffling instance of rapid-cycling mutation, pharmacy are proving again to be a subspecies of Homo sapiens that appears to have a backbone only when they are live on C-Span. In the backrooms where the deals get done they are total invertebrates, as demonstrated by the debt-ceiling deal emerging in Congress this weekend.

Republicans are pleading for just a little more Democratic support, which tells everything about whose plan is moving forward to avoid the trumped-up deadline for national default. Despite months of rhetoric about not making the little guy pay for budget austerity, the Democrats’ version of the “compromise” going forward is even more of what the Republicans wanted than they ever expected to obtain: A 12-member “Super Congress” that will have to come up with about $1.8 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving – or entitlement programs will automatically be cut instead (the right’s objective all along). No revenue enhancement, no expiration of the Bush tax cuts, apparently no legislation even to eliminate tax loopholes.

The cardinal rule of negotiation with terrorists and rogue states is, don’t ransom hostages or you simply reinforce and encourage the behavior. This is especially true when you have taken yourself hostage. The Republicans in Congress, with the Tea Party sticking knives into their backs, are a gang of terrorists, holding the United States and its system of democracy hostage. The debt ceiling crisis is an artifice – blackmail, pure and simple. The right knew from Obama’s cave on the budget a few months ago that he and Senate leaders would not only blink on the debt ceiling but would deliver the keys to the candy store with their eyes shut tight.

Obama had a reasonable option: invoking the 14th Amendment, which states that the debts of the United States shall not be questioned. Certainly there was some legal gray area, but in the absence of a reasonable and fair legislative agreement, he could have kept the option open and exercised it under a state of emergency – but not this conciliator-in-chief. He could have led, as he was elected to do, but he abstained. Essentially, he abdicated his constitutional duties, as he has been doing for two-and-a-half years.

Majorities of over 70 percent of the public in recent polls have said they want the rich to pay their fair share of reining in the deficit, but the Republicans continue to lie shamelessly in pretending they are following the will of the people. The media perpetuate outrageous false equivalencies in reporting the so-called balanced view that both sides need to compromise. Only some bloggers, a few columnists and a handful of radio and television commentators have pointed out that the emperor has no clothes: The “compromise” is persuading the kidnapper to take your food away in four months instead of next week as the price for agreeing to leave the oxygen flowing to your tomb.

And this from a party that putatively controls the Senate and the White House. Last time I checked, that was two-thirds of the day-to-day decision-making authority in this country. Why should they be the ones to blink in this game of chicken, especially when the President holds the trump card of invoking the 14th Amendment?

This deal should incite a riot but will probably only get AARP members to bang on their bedpans for a few days. It should bring millions into the streets with signs and shouts of protest. All it will do is send those millions into the streets and under the overpasses one family a time when all the safety nets erected over decades of social progress are ripped away from them by the plutocratic predators who will devour the nation until, like the parasites they are, they succumb along with their host victim.

And sadly, most shameful of all, is a president so many of us supported to change the way things are done, who wasn’t up to the task, who proved oh so much better at spouting promises than  protecting his charges and the democracy that elevated his sorry ass.

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Time to draw a line in the sand

By Steve Klinger

This blog has been fulminating for a couple of months (or maybe since the midterm elections) as I watch the spectacle in Washington that the President elevates by describing as a three-ring circus. As any circusgoer or participant well knows, shop meticulous planning and coordination go into every circus stop at every town, buy and every act, doctor from trapeze to juggling to animal routines. This is not to be confused with the dysfunctional frenzy in the Beltway.

The debt-ceiling crisis has in common with the circus that it is built on role-playing and enacted to mesmerize the audience, but the Washington version goes beyond entertainment and has no logical script other than the objective of maximizing political gain on behalf of those seeking financial gain.

In the final days of this trumped-up crisis, an artificial day of reckoning that only further denigrates government in the eyes of the populace, extemporaneous grandstanding rules the show. Republicans hold government, the President, the Democrats in Congress and the America people hostage in a cynical and hypocritical game of brinksmanship, alleged to be about controlling deficit spending but in reality about completing the redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the plutocracy.

Democrats have made strategic mistakes; for far too long they have lost the media-driven battle of public opinion, as usual being unable to match the Republicans’ ability to manipulate the victims themselves (Tea partiers, blue-collar workers, retirees, struggling homeowners) into orchestrating their own economic and political demolition.

The most offensive aspect of the whole thing has to be the collusion among the triumvirate of greed-driven plutocrats, co-opted politicians and mainstream-media talking heads whose rank hypocrisy knows no shame. Correspondents and news anchors talk about spreading blame and purport to provide a “balanced” perspective in lamenting that the sides can’t seem to compromise. Public opinion polls are twisted into confirming that the frustrated public just wants the two parties to reach an agreement. A problem almost entirely generated by wartime spending, Wall Street excess and self-serving deregulation has been allowed to be portrayed as one of runaway “entitlement” spending and false comparisons to balancing household budgets.

Commentators talk ad nauseum about compromise and deal-making. To our woe, the smartest guy in the room is the President, who has brainwashed himself into believing the compromise dictum, though he should have known a month into his presidency that “compromise” and “bipartisan” are code words for a strategy to prevent his re-election, even at the risk of destroying the nation.

Better-informed observers than I have chronicled the steadfast refusal of virtually the entire Republican delegation (especially in the current House) to compromise, while the Senate has elevated the filibuster to a new art from – all to thwart Obama and the Democrats, no matter how centrist or even right-leaning their agenda. But Obama can’t get the C-word out of his head and persists in the mindset of some self-styled ambassador instead of the leader and the agent for change many of us thought we were electing.

He has already capitulated on his principles regarding everything from the environment to single-payer health care, torture and secret rendition, drone attacks, national security, immigration, and is now willing to send Medicare down the slippery slope to pay the rightwing ransom in a scenario that is entirely of their making.

What he needs to do is explode the myth of equal blame and expose the total hypocrisy and cynicism, his re-election hopes be damned (though ironically they might well be advanced if he showed an iota of leadership). At this eleventh hour he needs to give Congress a very short leash to reach a workable agreement on a debt-ceiling extension and a package of spending cuts plus revenue-enhancement measures that will settle the issue through the 2012 elections. He needs to draw a line in the sand.

If no deal is reached in another two or three days, he needs to invoke the 14th Amendment, declare a state of emergency and extend the debt ceiling by executive decree.  There is much Democratic support for exactly such a course in the absence of a deal. The Republicans will scream bloody murder, but let them. They can’t lie, posture and manipulate any more than they already are. If the House wants to deliberate impeachment proceedings, so be it; at least it will give them something to do. If the courts must get involved, let them; they can’t be any less rational than the Republican leadership in Congress. If it costs Obama his re-election, he should realize that’s a better alternative than allowing the nation to slip into default and bring disaster on the economy and the American people.

He just might find an unexpected reaction – a groundswell of support from a nation that decisively elected a president to lead, not follow.

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A deal was made, neither new nor fair

By Thomas Wark


Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when the deal was made to assign a prominent speaking role to an obscure Illinois state legislator at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

There had to be a deal. Whoever made it, wherever it was made, there must have been enormous amounts of money involved, and a most cleverly constructed conspiracy. That boy Barry was being groomed for the presidency. He spoke (and wrote) good Democrat. Deeds, it turns out, were another matter.

The plot worked to perfection. “Democrat” Obama achieved the presidency, but from the outset his administration was very . .. Republican. Rightward Republican, right of Eisenhower, almost Reaganesque.

If we knew when that deal was made, and who made it, we’d know why.

As a candidate, he said more than once that single payer was the best solution to America’s sad health care mess. But as president he immediately sold his soul to the pharmaceutical industry, whose “Harry and Louise” TV ads had torpedoed the Clinton efforts at health care reform. Half a loaf, we were told, is better than none, but the health care bill he finally nudged through a Democratic-controlled Congress was barely a slice, moldy and sans butter.

His war posture is closer to the neocon hawk than to Ike; he has continued the worst policies of the Bush administration on civil liberties at home, human rights abroad, torture, detention and secret black hole prisons. Even some moderates on the left consider Obama to be impeachable for 1) ordering military attacks on sovereign nations without Congressional authorization; 2) issuing Executive Orders for the extra-judicial assassination of U. S. citizens in violation of the constitutional guarantee of due process; 3) presiding over military, paramilitary and intelligence service use of torture in violation of prohibitions against cruel and unusual treatment; 4) ordering attempts to assassinate foreign heads of state; 5) obstructing justice by failing or refusing to investigate credible allegations of torture brought against the previous administration.

As a candidate he promised relief for over-mortgaged home buyers but as president he bailed out the bankers who brought the economy down and didn’t lift a finger to stop foreclosures, which continued at record rates.

He has done nothing to solve the nation’s greatest economic problem — unemployment — while watching CEO and executive pay and bankers’ bonuses soar into the stratosphere.

In public he can still talk good Democrat but in private he folds to every right-wing Republican whim and folly. Trickle-down economics? Do the voodoo, baby! Extend tax cuts for the super-rich? My pleasure, sirs.

Every time Republicans say “Boo!” he pulls in his horns still further. This week he decided not to nominate the obvious best choice to head the new Consumer Protection Agency, Elizabeth Warren, because Republicans and their corporate masters hate and fear her. His nominee, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, actually has a fairly good record of pro-consumer litigation, and already Republicans are crying “Boo!” again: emasculate the agency or we’ll block this nominee, too. The stage is set for a double cave-in: stripping the agency of power and dumping Cordray in favor one of Timmy Titmouse’s Goldman Sachs pals.

Of course a deal was made. Perhaps we’ll never know the particulars: who, when, where. But we can guess. Just consider who has profited most from the Obama presidency so far.

‘Tweren’t us common folk.


Read more by Thomas Wark at

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